Separation of Substances


Separation of Substances (3rd-8th) 

Students design and implement a multi-step process to separate four different materials. They then assess the effectiveness of their separation techniques by comparing the final vs. initial amount of materials. After discussing their results, students compare their techniques to the methods used for separation at recycling facilities. This lesson requires water (not included).

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Lesson Overview

Students will:

  • Discuss how recycling plants might separate materials
  • Design and test a procedure for separating four materials: rice, iron beads, water, and oil. Student designs are constrained by the tools available for separation and time allowed to perform the separation 
  • Explain the effectiveness of separation techniques will be reviewed and how to separate recyclables will be re-visited
  • Discuss how to separate the components of saltwater

Lesson Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Apply different methods of separation in order to separate a four-material mixture
  • Identify sources of error and loss in each separation method used

This lesson is aligned with these Next Generation Science (NGS) Standards.

Standards Covered

Disciplinary Core Idea (DCI)

PS1 Matter and its Interactions- PS1.A Structure of Matter

  • (3rd-5th) Because matter exists as particles that are too small to see, matter is always conserved even if it seems to disappear. Measurements of a variety of observable properties can be used to identify particular materials.
  • (6th-8th) The fact that matter is composed of atoms and molecules can be used to explain the properties of substances, diversity of materials, states of matter, phase changes, and conservation of matter.

Science & Engineering Practice (SEP) 

Planning and Carrying out Investigations

  • (3rd-5th) Make observations and measurements to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence for an explanation of a phenomenon or test a design solution.
  • (6th-8th) Conduct an investigation and/or evaluate and revise the experimental design to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence that meets the goals of the investigation.

Crosscutting Concept (CCC)

Energy and Matter: Flows, Cycles, and Conservation

  • (3rd-5th) Matter flows and cycles can be tracked in terms of the weight of the substances before and after a process occurs. The total weight of the substances does not change. This is what is meant by the conservation of matter. The matter is transported into, out of, and within systems
  • (6th-8th) The matter is conserved because atoms are conserved in physical and chemical processes.
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